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Questions Managers Should Ask Remote Employees
May 18, 2020
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As more employees are working from home or spending days on the road visiting learners and employers, how do you ensure you have the right conversation that homes in on issues that are often unspoken?

Here are 11 questions that you can use to create better dynamics with your remote employees, faster.  Ask these questions when you first start working with any remote employee, or at regular intervals (e.g., every half year), to check in on changes. 

1. What do you like best and least about working remotely?  

Follow-on questions: 

  • What is the high point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 
  • What is the low point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 

What this question uncovers

Motivation analysis: This question helps you find out what motivates and demotivates your direct reports. Learn more by asking for more context on comments. For example, if they say ‘my high point is getting into a flow state with a project.’  Ask: ‘what creates a flow state for you?’

2. What is your work setup like?  

Follow-on questions:

  • What equipment or process improvements would make things 10% better? 
  • What technology issues have you encountered? 

What this question uncovers

Environment analysis: This question helps you listen for ways to optimize setup and workflow. While doing so, you can also arrange for your remote employee to interview other remote employees from cross-functional departments to learn their setup tips. 

3. What is your daily routine? 

Follow-on questions

  • What do you do to take breaks/ recharge? 
  • Are you able to fully disconnect when on vacation or at the end of the day? 

What this question uncovers

Energy management: Listen for spots to help optimize time boundaries. A big danger for remote employees is burnout since work and life are blended. When working in-person at the office it’s easier to have delineated boundaries for starting and stopping work. 

4. What has your experience been with working remotely in the past? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What were some challenges in your previous setups?
  • What were some of the learnings you had? 

What this question uncovers

Level of support needed: There is a presumption that working remotely is easy – one simply does what one would normally do, but at a different location. This isn’t true. What we’ve found in our research is that working remotely requires a unique skill set that gets honed with time, including over-communication, clarifying expectations, assertiveness, proactivity, and more. Asking about prior experience with remote work helps you gauge your direct report’s skillsets and determine if more guidance or training is needed to set them up well for success.

5. What challenges do you feel remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What could make things easier?
  • What benefits/advantages do remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

What this question uncovers

Perception/fairness markers: The human brain is wired to track comparisons between conditions, including in this case in-person vs. remote dynamics. Sometimes remote employees feel more is happening at the office than really is (e.g., team meetings that they are not a part of, benefits they miss out on, etc.). This question helps you surface unspoken issues and re-set expectations if there is a feeling of misbalance. This includes a conversation around perks. The downside of working remotely is getting access to things free snacks or onsite company celebrations, etc, but the positive trade is flexibility, autonomy, no need for a commute, etc.

6. Would you say our meetings are remote-friendly? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Can you hear and see well? 
  • On a scale from 1-10, how easy is it for you to contribute during a meeting? 

What this question uncovers

Meetings culture: Team meetings are often harder on folks who are dialing in, yet easy to optimize. This question will help you hear, from your remote employee’s perspective, small optimization ideas. As an example, one easy hack LifeLabs Learning has found to quickly improve perceived meeting quality (PMQ) is to have each person in the in-person meeting dial in using their laptop and laptop camera and a jabra mic for the room. With this, all people in the in-person room can speak to each other like normal, but the remote person can see a close-up view of each person who is speaking. 

7. Who do you connect with most often at work? 

Follow-on questions:

  • Which coworkers or departments do you wish you had more connection with? 
  • Who do you go to when you need support or have process suggestions or improvement ideas?

What this question uncovers

Support network: When working remotely, it is harder to make connections, yet an essential brain craving for all humans is to feel like we belong. Asking ‘who do you connect with most often’ and the follow on questions helps you realize if your direct report needs help building out their network. Creating relationship capital for your direct report is easy: you can link them to other people doing similar work, find ways to make their work more visible by creating demos, or set them up for informational interviews with relevant departments. 

8. How do you feel about how often you visit the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Is this the right amount or would you like it to be more or less often? 
  • When you meet with other teammates, do you/ they turn your camera on? 

What this question uncovers

Belonging: This question helps you uncover how your direct report feels about the amount of contact they get and allows you to explain decision criteria around in-person gatherings. Having the right amount of in-person time matters when working from afar. Our research shows that ‘frequency beats length’ when it comes to having contact. What this means is that flying a direct report in for in-person time is important, but having cameras on in order to see each other frequently is even more important.

9. What are some things your prior managers did that you liked? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What’s something you didn’t like? 
  • What’s something I could do 10% better? 

What this question uncovers

Managerial relationship: This question helps you understand how to work best with your employee. It opens feedback lines by normalizing that your team cares about optimizing work dynamics. It also helps you improve one-on-one meetings for the future. 

10. How consistent are our information systems? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Which apps do you most use in your daily workflow? When do you use Slack, text, Jira, etc.? When do you feel confused about which systems to use? 
  • Where are we consistent/inconsistent as a team?

What this question uncovers

Communication systems: When working remotely, it is particularly important to know which medium to use for which type of information. This question helps assess confusion spots in the system. 

11. What do you want to learn more about regarding our team or company? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Has any news surprised you recently? 
  • How included do you feel in team decisions? 

What this question uncovers

Information flow: When working remotely, people sometimes feel out of the loop. This question helps you hear if they feel or are excluded. You can then optimize systems or explain the context.

Article first produced by LifeLabs Learning: LifeLabs provides training for managers, execs, and teams, with a focus on rapid skill acquisition and tipping points: the skills that make the most difference in the workplace. 

Leeds Utd and Salford Uni Join Forces
May 18, 2020
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@LUFC and @SalfordUni join to create online course for aspiring football industry professionals

A unique course designed for professional football players and those working in the football industry has been launched to boost skills and knowledge.

Footballer kicking a ball

Delivered entirely online, BSc (Hons) Applied Football Studies is aimed at players and those in player facing roles, but could also be of interest to anyone who works or volunteers in football.

The three-year course, a partnership between The University of Salford Business School and Leeds Utd Football Club, with support from Ahead in Sport, combines learning in key areas of the football industry, including leadership, talent development and psychology, with practical business skills.

In particular the course will offer a route for academy players to develop skills and knowledge that could be of huge benefit to them if they do not make it in the professional game.

The course also examines contemporary issues such as the development of the women’s game, opportunities for BAME coaches and financial fair play, whilst it will also offer students the opportunity to examine the repercussions of the current pandemic and its impact on the football industry moving forward.

Taught online and created with full-time football players in mind, the programme recognises football as a significant business in its own right and examines the relationship that exists between sport and business. By following a blended learning approach, it allows those on the course to combine study with the demands of being involved in football such as training and games, which may have previously limited opportunities to access traditional HE routes.

Speaking about the new course, Angus Kinnear, Chief Executive of Leeds Utd Football Club said:

“This is an incredibly innovative course, that will create a bridge for people who want to realise their ambition to work in sport. It can be difficult for us to recruit people with the right skill set and this course will hopefully bridge that gap and provide people with the right skills to thrive.

“And it is a fact that, unfortunately, a lot of academy players won’t make it as professionals, but with this course we can help them grow skills and have the chance of developing a successful career afterwards.”

This is a practical course which builds on experiences as a player or in a player facing role. The aim is to develop strong skills relating to the business of football and provide opportunities for career progression into a wide range of roles across sports industries.

Programme leader from the University of Salford Business School, Nicola McCullough, said: “It has been great to work with Leeds Utd and Ahead in Sport on this course. They provide key knowledge, inside information and experience to ensure the course is providing exactly what the industry needs. 

“Working directly with industry providers is key to our mission at the University of Salford.

“We’re aiming to create the next generation of worldwide football leaders with the skills and the fact that the course is entirely online is perfect for the times we are in.”

Joel Roberts, Director of Operations at Ahead in Sport, said: “Through its on-line delivery this unique course offers the flexibility that full-time players and staff require, whilst the industry-led content reflects the number of opportunities available to those aspiring to be involved in the game, either on or off the pitch.” 

By University of Salford Manchester

DWP Touchbase: Coronavirus Special – 15 May 2020
May 18, 2020
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Roundup of recent DWP announcements  
Benefits information available via WhatsApp:
People can now access the most up-to-date benefits and support information via their smart phones, using WhatsApp. The service, which can be accessed by sending ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to 07860 064 422, has been launched to help combat the spread of incorrect information and to make the correct information easily accessible. The GOV.UK service currently has more than 312,000 unique users, and has sent more than 2.6 million messages since its launch on 25 March 2020. DWP is one of the first government departments to provide information via the service which includes information on benefits support available, how to check if you are eligible and how to apply. 
Information on furlough:
We’ve updated our Employment and Benefits Support site with information about furlough. The page offers straightforward information about what furlough is, eligibility, how furlough interacts with benefits and guidance and signposting on taking alternative work while furloughed.    
Job Retention Scheme update
The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will be extended for four months until the end of October. After July, greater flexibility will be introduced to the scheme, allowing employers to move out of it in a measured way that protects people’s incomes and helps support furloughed employees as they return to work. This will run for three months from August through to the end of October. During this period, employers currently using the scheme will have more flexibility to bring their furloughed employees back to work part time. Further information can be found on GOV.UK.  
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)
The government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. There are 8 guides that cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.  
Safeguarding customers
As part of the DWP’s commitment to safeguarding customers during COVID-19, 10 regional Senior Safeguarding Leader roles have been introduced. The roles will be in place for three months initially and will act as an escalation point when a solution cannot be found locally. They do not replace existing routes into DWP where there is concern about a customer. As active members of multi-agency boards in their regions, they will work with partners to find resolutions for customers at risk and take forward any service design or policy issues. For details of your local Safeguarding Leader please email DWP Customer Safeguarding Team.  
Find out what you can do if you are struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Use this GOV.UK service to find out what help you can get if you are affected by coronavirus. You can use it for yourself or someone else. You can find information about: feeling unsafegoing in to workpaying bills or being unemployedgetting foodhaving somewhere to livemental health and wellbeing